Space

Research - 'The Studio' and 'The Gallery' or 'The Factory' and 'The White Cube' by Ally McGinn

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation. 30.11.17

Ally McGinn (2017) Studio documentation. 30.11.17

I have continually found the differences between the studio and gallery fascinating. At university, this difference can be seen in the same space, which is an unusual situation. I doubt I will see it much after university.

The combination of studio and gallery in a single location has been a catalyst for my interests, and this work could have only been created in a space housing that dichotomy.

The Studio - The Factory.

In the studio, the aesthetics of the space are set aside in favour of the process. Artists studios are a snapshot into their minds, and the variety of forms the studio can take are as varied as the artists themselves.

The studio can be defined as the space where an artist ‘works’, where paintings are created, sculptures are formed, and objects become Art, and potentially any site of activity.

An enigmatic geographical location that denies and defies its definition, the studio is as complicated a subject as many found in the artworld.

Developments in the last century include the discovery and embrace of concepts like installation art, relational aesthetics, performance and other site-specific activities, which by definition occur, at least in part, outside the studio. Leading to the suggestion that we are in the stage of the ‘post-studio condition.' (Hoffmann, 2012)

Once, and possibly still, considered a solitary space where an unknowable genius resides, the studio has changed with the modern world, becoming something so-far undefined, and perhaps as indefinable as artists themselves.

Every studio is different and has various demands placed on it. (make no mistake, artists are demanding people)

People continue to have a fascination with the artist's studio, and the activities that take place, undoubtedly in part due to the desire to understand art, and where better to start than understanding the studio. This fascination can be seen in television programs and videos ‘visiting’ the studio, which seem to hover between a recorded reverence and honesty of a documentary and a near romantic escapism.

A clear example of the romanticism of the studio can be seen in the preservation of Francis Bacon’s studio. (Cappock, Undated) Carefully undertaken by a team of professionals, the space has been meticulously collected and replicated in Dublin. The recreation even took the dust collected since Bacon’s death in 1992. What purpose can be found in this preservation of space and object? The studio has been turned into a museum, displaying itself.

Given the rise and expansion of painting, performance, and installation the studio is an artwork awaiting nomination.

The contemporary studio model can be traced back to the shifting focus of art during the Renaissance, as patrons began to fund artists where art had previously been governed by a central system, revolving around the church, and it's monastic institutions. (Klonk, 2009)

The relationship between artist and patron became necessary for both, as individual artists were commissioned to create works for an entire household.

The work would have been created in the ‘bottega’ - workroom - as opposed to the ‘studiolo’ which was more a space for contemplation and study. The etymological link here being the Latin 'studium', meaning to study. (Klonk, 2009)

The artist's development came through apprenticeship; a promising young artist would work for years at the instruction of a master before being considered to learn the art of the master.

This system is linked to the ‘Atelier,' a French word combining studio and workroom, where a single artist would be assisted by a team of apprentices. (Klonk, 2009)

Commissioned portraits would remain a central staple for the artist's livelihood for centuries, as developments in techniques and ideas continued.

The studio became an amalgamation of the workroom and study room, a space where both worked together to create and develop. The contemplation of the 'studiolo' worked into the process of the workroom. (Klonk, 2009)

The basic structure of the atelier and artists themselves remained mostly unchanged from the Middle Ages to the 1800’s. (Klonk, 2009) In 1816 the first academy was opened in Paris - the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-arts - which hosted its own exhibitions, the first salons, to critique, analyse and support the growing developments in the art world and our understanding of it.(Klonk, 2009)

Academy’s like this became the foundation of art in that century and were the catalysts that avant-guards artists would rebel against in the beginning of Modernism. (Klonk, 2009)

The beginnings of mass-production had a significant impact on art. Making paint, which was once a laborious process became something far different when it could be purchased in small, portable, tubes. (Klonk, 2009) Efficiency was the word of the time - and with efficiency comes introspection and an expansion of philosophy, and therefore, art.

The developments and the natural outlook and creativity of artists led to an entirely new way of painting - en plein air - literally meaning “in open air.” (Klonk, 2009) The studio became mobile.

Artists began to work on their own artwork, rather than a total reliance on commissioned works artworks sold more and more on the basis of their own merit —l'art pour l'art, or "art for art's sake." (Klonk, 2009)

In the 1960’s Andy Warhol subverted the notion of the studio, although his work questions whether it was a subversion or not. His studio became The Factory, a space that owes influence to Ford’s production methods.

Warhol worked extensively with ideas of repetition, replication, and reality, or at least the reality of modern life and the celebrity. The Factory was equally known for drug-fueled parties and a high production of artistic output. (Warhol, 2007) Combined with his persona and perspective Warhol brought us the idea of an artist as a brand. Which I see as a form of practice as artwork.

Jeff Koons, a definite artistic celebrity, employs hundreds of assistants in a studio that looks more like the headquarters of a successful modern company, which is probably because the artist's process is most like one, a cyclical return to the apprentice/master relationship. (Warhol, 2007)

When compared to Warhol’s factory the studios of some contemporary artists look like scientific labs, high-tech think tanks, or indeed any other model.

Like art itself, the artist's studio is always a reflection the spirit of the times, and like the definition of art, the artist's studio is varied, undefinable and delightfully mysterious, often even to the artists.

The Gallery - The white cube.

The gallery was traditionally perceived in the same way we perceive a museum; a place where things are not touched and are idolised in quasi-religious contemplation, and often worship.

From experience, I can say that galleries tend to be quiet places, large or small, where visitors are monitored for behaviour, although often unobtrusively.

While the physical appearance and expectations are one of good behaviour, the experiences of a museum and art galleries are designed to be a positive one.

Interestingly, when museums began to be opened to the public, in the eighteenth century, they were used by the public as other public spaces were, as places to spend downtime with friends and family. Charlotte Klonk writes in her book, Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800–2000, that it was through room design and layout that the shift in museum etiquette began.

The creation of public galleries meant that arts audience widened dramatically, and therefore it's purpose altered. That goal is still vehemently argued but the shift to what we now know as art can be linked to the opening of these public spaces.

The white cube can be traced to MOMA in the 1930’s. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011) The culmination of various roots, the white cube was the result of a desire to show the depth and colour of paintings produced at the time against the most contrasting background, a pure white wall. (Klonk, 2011) Klonk discusses another root in the desire for hygiene, a white wall shows dirt more easily and appears clean. In the 1920’s theories were emerging about the connotations between white and infinite space. Combined with the increasing desire for temporary spaces to exhibit the white cube emerged.

In full effect by the 1950’s anyone who has since been to an art gallery will have experienced the white cube. Designed to house, acknowledge and present art to the public, aka, the consumer.

It wouldn't be wrong to suggest that, the majority of artworks are experienced in galleries or other forms of curated settings.  A transformative process, curation takes the artwork from studio to gallery.  During the post-creation time, the process of art becomes one of curation. The works are placed carefully, the space aligned with other elements of the work to enhance themes, ideas, and conversations.

Galleries are a mix of publicly and privately funded institutions where art can be exhibited and experienced. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011) Curators have increased in importance and amount as the development of art has grown. The vast majority of artists make work to be shown in galleries. These institutions have become almost religious in their status as the bastions of fine art.

Galleries are designed to be visited, and when the onlooker enters the gallery, they are trusting the institution. The larger the gallery, the more the public trusts that the work will be ‘good.' In turn, a gallery has a responsibility to its visitors to ensure that the trust is earned and validated.

Galleries are not without their biases, in fact, the reverse is closer to the truth. The experience of a gallery is carefully curated to achieve a specific result. It is a physical space utterly controlled by a theoretical ideal. This is no secret and artists often use the white cube to their advantage. The gallery becomes another blank canvas; the space is the surface. Galleries are a lens through which art can be seen.  

The exploration of this bias has led to a relatively new term, Installation art, discussed on another page in this blog.

Looking at a piece of art against a white background removes all associations, other than those with art. The idea is to show the single art in it's purest form.

Curation allows the experience of the entire space to work by invoking the experiences of the individual works into a narrative whole.

“We have to be able to forget that there are walls and have found no better way to do that, than with pictures. Pictures efface walls. But walls kill pictures.” (Bachelard, 1992)

The gallery is designed to be aseptic, to show as little human presence as possible. Toilets, desks, shops and other areas of purpose are kept away from the work where possible or otherwise as unobtrusive as possible. (Maak, Klonk and Demand, 2011)  - experience??

The spaces exist for experience and contemplation alone. This expectation of behaviour and understanding can be uncomfortable for some, but the intention is all about the art.

The white cube remains a somewhat controversial subject and has become close enough to the factors that constitute an artwork that it can be argued to be an artwork in its own right.

Reflection

Observations of gallery and studio have formed most of this text, experience. These observations have formed many works directly, and an indirect interest in this juxtaposition is part of the foundation of my interests.

This research has been an additional element of my growing collection. Knowing the traditional and origins of both studio and gallery has been a useful tool through my explorations.

It's interesting to note that both gallery and studio can be seen as artwork, in theory, if not in practice.

Bibliography

Klonk, C. (2009) Spaces of Experience: Art Gallery Interiors from 1800–2000. Yale University Press.

Bachelard, G. (1992) The Poetics of Space. New York. Penguin Publishing.

Hoffmann, J. (2012) The Studio. MIT Press.

Cappock, M. (Undated) History of Studio Relocation. [Online] Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane. Available from: http://www.hughlane.ie/history-of-studio-relocation. [Accessed 17.11.17].

Maak, N. Klonk, C. and Demand, T (2011) ‘The White Cube and Beyond’. Tate. [Online] Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/white-cube-and-beyond [Accessed  20.11.17].

Warhol, A (2007) The Philosophy of Andy Warhol : From A and B and Back Again. St Ives : Penguin Books.

 

Research - The Experiential Turn by Ally McGinn

This text examines contemporary art with the aim to understand the shift from object to experience. The author discusses the term performative in art, arguing that the term is a complicated one because the act of performance is implicit in the work of art itself. The two cannot be distinguished, and a label of performative on an artwork is often misunderstood.

“There is no performative artwork because there is no nonperformative artwork.” (2014: 1)

The language through which we describe a performative work can become a performance in itself, we only need to think of the pronouncements of marriage as the act of marriage to realise the power words can have.

The author argues that performance is not a medium for artworks but a perspective of artworks. As all artworks have a performative aspect, it is a way to look at all artworks, not only those described as performative. This is an extremely important realisation, for me, that has had a profound impact on the work. It is a realisation that has grown organically in the studio and was then found through this text.

These arguments, and the truths they are based on, show the reasons for the move from art object to art experience. A shifting from representation to actualisation. All artworks form an experience of some kind, they are things that are experienced, the author shows here that from the 1960’s there has been an active shift in the intention of artworks to create experiences.

The author outlines her argument through a historical perspective, linking to minimalism and contemporary artists, and through a brief examination of the modern condition, that this shift in experience is a result, and examination, of “economic and cultural transformations of Western bourgeois-industrial societies in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.” (2014: 2)

Von Hantelmann roots the shift to experience in works like Robert Morris's, who was looking to create 'situations' rather than artworks. (2014: 4) Exploring the horizontality of Carl Andre's firebricks as a conversation about the vertical, monumental, nature of sculpture. (2014: 4) This brings the works into the space of the viewer, and initiates a spatial conversation in the viewers reality. 

She explores this shift as a move from the self-referential objects of art history into a more open communication between viewer, artwork and space. The final message I've taken from this text, which is one I am still working through, is that there are “artworks that produce an experience (which basically any artwork does) and artworks that shape experiences. “ (2014: 14)

James Coleman (1977)  Box.  Projected 16mm black and white film. 

James Coleman (1977) Box. Projected 16mm black and white film. 

The two artworks explored in detail exemplify the experience in form and context. Minimalist artworks with aesthetic experience. James Colemans 'Box' is a representational experience and Tino Sehgal's 'This objective of that object', is a communicative experience. All three are different, and have different aims, but share an underlying focus on experience. A focus that can be linked to changes in the socioeconomic order of the modern world since the industrial revolution. Things are still changing, to assume they aren't is an absolute error.

Reflection

This text is pertinent to my practice, which has been shifting into experience for the past 12 months. It was suggested by Robert Luzar for a semiar with the MA's. The idea of experience, and presense, is integral to my practice, primarily through the presentation of objects (which is arguably the medium of my practice). 

The shift to an experiential emphasis in artistic practice includes the viewer into the creation of the work, their presense is anonoymous but it exists. The artwork is made with attention to the experience of the anonoymous, potential, viewer.

Interaction with my work is a key element. We don't look at the work from afar, we move ourselves around the space to bring different elements into focus. The same way we experience the world. This interaction, on the part of the viewer, is something I am continuing to explore in the studio, and something I am keen to continue developing. Texts like this one, which covers far more than I have summarised here, progress that development. 

This is a text I plan to return to in the coming months, as my experiences in the studio come more into focus. 

Bibliography

Von Hantelmann, D (2014) ‘The Experiential Turn’. On Performativity [Online] Available from : http://walkerart.org/collections/publications/performativity/experiential-turn/ [Accessed 02.12.17].

Research- Exhibition Trip - Spike Island by Ally McGinn

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition]. Spike Island, Bristol. 30 September - 17 December 2017.

Visit: 26th November 2017

This exhibition was recommended to me by fellow students on the MA as they began to get to know my work. I went with my daughter, the perspective of a 6-year-old is extremely interesting, and it quickly overtook Jasper Johns as my favourite exhibition experience this year.

From the exhibition catalogue

Kim Yong-Ik is a Korean artist born in 1947 in Seoul. This is his first solo show in Europe and was preceded by an exhibition in Korea. He is known for his questioning nature and playful execution of works. Kim has remained firmly detached from any set art movement, a distance that allows him to subvert and challenge the practices of art institutions. This description fits the underlying nature of the works in this show.

A major turning point for Kim was the repression in his country in the 1980’s. At a time when he was writing a thesis about Duchamp, he was invited to take part in a show, the ‘Young Artists Biennial’. His works, which were paintings, were boxed, shipped and shown in the exhibition, still in their boxes. The boxes were stacked as a sculpture in the exhibition. This work serves as a response to the political upheaval and Modernist painting.

Kim is known for his uncertainty in his place in the art world, and the ‘role art should play in society’. His continuing practice pushed painting into sculpture, often working with the space of display within the work.  

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

A key piece in the exhibition, for me, was made in this time. Near an access door to the gallery at Spike Island, a fantastic placement for this work, is a pile of unwanted works, and packaging materials. The pile is left haphazardly and the viewer is left unsure whether the works are simply waiting to be cleared away. Due to the nature of the gallery, without titles on the walls, the only clue that this an artwork is found in the accompanying catalogue and exhibition guide.

This ambiguous work is utterly brilliant, it immediately forces the viewer to ask a question.
Kim said about the work that “it is also a metaphor for many of my parent’s generation who crossed the line of life and death based on their decision to be left wing or right wing.” A deeply personal and political message that the artist has found expression with through the work.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim's works interact with the space around them without becoming totally site-specific. They fit the space, without being reliant on it. Something I am attempting to achieve in my works. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The title of the exhibition comes from writing on one of the works in the show. Writing is a key element of Kim’s practice. The stack of boxed paintings has a new addition for this exhibition. He has written ‘Spike Island’ and the date one each crate.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The single most exciting feature of this exhibition, seen here as a whole, is the writing on the walls Kim has made to explain things about the work. These small additions are a site specific interaction with the presentation of an existing artwork. They are small, and light, and could easily be missed. Many require the viewer to sit on the floor to see them.
I took photos of a few, and they are brilliant additions to the work, and show the performative aspect of practice.

Kim returns to many artworks, seeing the process as ongoing, and enjoys allowing time and chance to affect the works.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The final section of the exhibition, depending on how you move around the space, features recent works. These sit between painting and sculpture, paintings within sculptures. Kim has encased paintings inside coffin-like cases. Known as the ‘Coffin’ series these works are inscribed with various writings. An accompanying paper translates these for the viewer.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Many of the texts describe or somehow comment on the work, sometimes directly but often romantically or poetically. Some are simply documentary. The inclusion of these elements of text contextualises the work, within the work.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

This exhibition has been extremely influential, and I imagine it will only become more influential as I continue to review it, and hopefully visit once more before it closes.

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.  The placement of this piece is intentionally challenging. Spike Island is a large open space, with a central section. This piece is against one of the walls of the central section, challenging the viewers perception of the narrative action of gallery space. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

The placement of this piece is intentionally challenging. Spike Island is a large open space, with a central section. This piece is against one of the walls of the central section, challenging the viewers perception of the narrative action of gallery space. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017)  I Believe My Works Are Still Valid.  [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.  This combination of pieces transcends time, the element on the wall is a recent execution of an older idea. The repetition of marks and form brings the space into the work, while the different materials make us question the materials themselves. 

Kim Yong-Ik (2017) I Believe My Works Are Still Valid. [Exhibition shot]. Spike Island, Bristol. 26.11.17.

This combination of pieces transcends time, the element on the wall is a recent execution of an older idea. The repetition of marks and form brings the space into the work, while the different materials make us question the materials themselves. 

Reflection

This exhibition has quickly become one of the most influential I have seen this year. The works are a combination of Kim's personal subject matter (including circles) and a questioning of art that is conceptually engaging. 
The works are carefully arranged, and full of surprises. His works and the context behind them have made me question, in the best possible way, my own practice and influences. 
It is really through this exhibition, and a subsequent reading of the accompanying material, that I have realised the links of my work to capitalism. A link later reiterated with the text The Experiential Turn. 

I havent written as much as I normally might about this exhibition, the experience shows more in the shift in practice that has come from the combination of this exhibition, studio research and contextual research in the past few weeks. 
I need to go back to the exhibition before it closes. I need another look and more time to think about these intricate implications.

Research - Fernanda Gomes by Ally McGinn

Gomes is a Brazilian visual artist, born in 1960, she was active in the 1980’s with her first solo show in 1997. (Schwabsky, 2002)

Gomes uses leftover everyday objects, including furniture, glasses, mirrors, string, hair, cigarette ends, small pieces of bone, worn wood, plastic bags, gold leaf, pencils, paper, water, rubber balls, and even crispbread in her assembled objects.

Her works question what art is by encouraging the viewer to ask whether they are paintings. Blurring the line between painting, sculpture and object Gomes calls her works ‘things’. (Whitelegg, 2013)

Often including multiple elements, the works can be considered to be installations.  She carefully complies the objects, altered and unaltered, into arrangements that resemble cartographies.

Many of the elements are covered in white paint, a reference to the studio and the act of preparing to paint. Using the same, balancing, colour on multiple objects equalise them, visually and metaphorically. The objects reference nothing but themselves, and their relational interactions with each other.

Fernanda Gomes (2014)  Untitled.  Canvas, wood, paint. 32 x 58 x 3.3cm

Fernanda Gomes (2014) Untitled. Canvas, wood, paint. 32 x 58 x 3.3cm

The white paint removes references and acts as a form of reduction. In places, her editing makes it almost appear to disappear.

Gomes chooses not to title her works, adding to the ambiguity of each. I find this very interesting and akin to the act of priming a surface, to open it for consideration. (Alison Jacques Gallery, Undated)

Gomes assembles the works in the gallery spaces, turning the gallery into a temporary studio. Her practice entails careful consideration in the space, which she describes as an attempt to “try and enlarge perception, as a stone thrown in the water” (Schwabsky, 2002). This practical intensive interaction with the gallery space intimately relates her work to the space of display, which in the case of artworks is the space in which these things reside, their immediate environment.

This is something I deeply admire, and constantly seek to achieve with my work.

Her visual language can be described as delicate and shows a respect for the objects she claims. Utilising the mundane Gomes aggrandises objects we would normally ignore, making us reconsider the material world. By treating the materials with such reverence they become almost relics, a link to the idea of the museum or archive.

The relationships between the objects chosen bring unexpected dialogues to life. In some pieces, the relationship is nearly imperceptible – like a single piece of transparent thread against a white wall.

On a personal note - I feel I have an element of subtlety but it is something I would like to explore more.

Gomes speaks about the “insufficiency of words”, in art. (Schwabsky, 2002) I’ve often felt this is the case, otherwise, all artists would be writers. This understanding of the nature of language and its interaction with art is evident in her handling of objects and their purpose.

Fernanda Gomes (2017) Installation view of studio.

Fernanda Gomes (2017) Installation view of studio.

Her work is a balance of consideration, addition and reduction; hovering between mundane and significant, while capturing a sensitivity to the visual world. Gomes is an artist who forces us to ask whether we are looking at a painting, or simply a metaphor for one, either way, the questions remain

Bibliography

Alison Jacques Gallery (Undated) Fernanda Gomes [Online] Alison Jacques Gallery. Available from:http://www.alisonjacquesgallery.com/artists/72-fernanda-gomes/works/ [Accessed 11.11.17].

Schwabsky, B. (2002) Vitamin P: New Perspectives in Painting. London: Phaidon.

Whitelegg, I. (2013) ‘Fernanda Gomes’. Frieze, [Online] Available from: http://www.alisonjacquesgallery.com/usr/documents/press/download_url/240/fg-frieze-sept-2013.pdf [Accessed 11.11.17].